A cosmetic re-brand is rarely the solution to more brand relevance.

Porter CommunicationIt’s no easy feat to enhance your brand’s relevance to its most fervent users, while at the same time attract new loyalists. With today’s pace of change in consumer tastes, preferences and behaviors are moving too fast for many brands to keep up.

To keep up with the changing tastes and attitudes of the culture, shifts in market categories and competitive threats, brand owners (particularly of CPG brands) inevitably are tempted to try fiddling with the brand’s visual identity–tweaking colors, icons, typography, imagery, shapes, packaging, nomenclature, taglines, catchphrases etc. as a method to keep the brand “fresh”.  Employing this tactic assumes that a fresher looking brand identity is a more relevant brand.  This is not universally so.

Indeed one doesn’t have to look far for examples of a successful brand “refresh “ in the marketplace. No one will dispute the fact that being current with the “way of the world” is always a good perception for brands to maintain with their audiences. Apple, Starbucks, Tesla and all leading brands adapt to cultural and marketplace shifts with manic focus and efficacy in managing the visual aspects of brand identity.

But often, a brand refresh can be nothing more than veneer, an easy cosmetic solution to perhaps a more challenging problem brand owners (for whatever reason) may be unwilling to face.

Many brand consultants and brand managers now operate from a fundamental understanding that a brand (and its financial value as a business asset) is the result of every experience people have with it. In other words, the brand makes a promise to fulfill a need for a specific group of people and then delivers on it in remarkable ways.

Relevance (why your brand matters) is not the result of how cool your logo, packaging, or marketing is.

No amount of logo tweaking would have saved Blackberry from its fate. Indeed your brand identity, in all its forms, must strike a compelling cord on a basic level, but it won’t be of much use resolving the relevance issues brands like Blackberry faced.

Dwindling sales is the early warning indicator of a brand losing its relevance. Dwindling sales is usually not the fault of the brand’s visual identity. It’s tempting to first look to the cosmetic, superficial aspects of brand identity as a means to shift customer perception. Tweaking with the deck chairs on a sinking ship won’t save the day for brands that lose their relevance.

Better to turn your creative energies to the things that actually deliver on the promise of your brand.

The more profound issues of brand strategy – informed consumer insight, brand health, positioning and brand architecture – require deeper thinking and perhaps more financial investment to maintain the brand’s relevance. Nowadays for leading brands, this happens in real time.

Remember brands begin to lose their relevance long before the cash they generate begins to slide. Consequently, it’s easy to understand why many brand owners continue to milk those cash cows despite the prevailing winds of change looming ahead.

If your brand is beginning to lose relevance to its core customer segment, take a deeper, more introspective look at the whole before tweaking any of the parts.  If in fact, business imperatives require a repositioning, you may want to be clear on what current positive associations inherent in your current brand identity that need to be retained and will help move the brand forward to its new position.

Rarely is a cosmetic re-brand the solution to being a more relevant and engaging brand.